Jean-Jacques Cornish

Five decades of family rule at stake in Gabon’s election

Five decades of family rule are at stake when Gabonese go to the polls tomorrow.

President Ali Bongo, seeking a second term, comes up against Jean Ping who was foreign minister in his father Omar Bongo’s government.

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Omar Bongo ruled the oil rich little country in west-central Africa for 42 years.

Now his son, Ali Bongo Ondimba, is seeking a second seven-year term as president on a pledge to diversify an economy that gets 60% of its revenue from oil.

The man  hoping to end the Bongo family’s long lock on power is former African Union Commission chief Jean Ping.

He faces an uphill battle against Bongo, who is backed by the country’s powerful elite and leaders of France, the country’s former colonial master.

Tensions are high ahead of the vote.

Opposition leaders have been barred from organising public rallies, raising fears of election fraud.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.